Culture, History and Religion in the Northeast

Bahia, Salvador and the Northeast has a very diverse culture, history and religion and architecture within Brazil and has the most typical popular cultural manifestations as well as music.

Northeastern culture

Northeastern culture is quite diverse as it has been influenced by indigenous, African and European people. Customs and traditions often vary from state to state.

As the North-East was the first region effectively colonised by the Portuguese, back in the 16th century, who found the native populations there and were accompanied by Africans brought as slaves, the North-East culture is quite particular and typical, although extremely varied.

It is Luso-Brazilian based, with strong African influences, especially on the coast from Pernambuco to Bahia and in Maranhão, and Amerindian, especially in the semi-arid sertão

The cultural wealth of the north-east region is visible beyond its folkloric and popular manifestations.

Literature from the Northeast has made a great contribution to the Brazilian literary scene, with names such as João Cabral de Melo Neto, José de Alencar, Jorge Amado, Nelson Rodrigues, Rachel de Queiroz, Gregório de Matos, Clarice Lispector, Graciliano Ramos, Ferreira Gullar and Manuel Bandeira, among many others, standing out.

Northeastern Literature and Music

In the literature of the Northeast we can mention the popular cordel literature which dates back to the colonial period (cordel literature came with the Portuguese and has its origins in the European Middle Ages) and numerous artistic manifestations of a popular nature which manifest themselves orally, such as the singers of repentes and embolada.

Afoxé Filhos de Gandhy, in Salvador, Bahia.

In classical music, Alberto Nepomuceno and Paurillo Barroso stand out as composers, as does Liduíno Pitombeira from Ceará, and Eleazar de Carvalho as a maestro.

Northeastern rhythms, songs and melodies also inspired composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos (whose Brazilian Bachiana No. 5, for example, in its second part – Dança do Martelo – alludes to the backlands of Cariri).

In the popular music of the North-East, rhythms such as coco, xaxado, agalopado martelo, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, Axé and frevo, among others, stand out.

The Armorial movement in Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did an erudite job of valuing this popular Northeastern rhythmic heritage (one of its best-known exponents is the singer Antônio Nóbrega).

Nordestine Dance

Dance in the North-East includes maracatu, practised in various parts of the North-East, frevo (characteristic of Pernambuco), bumba-meu-boi, xaxado, various variants of forró, tambor-de-crioula (characteristic of Maranhão), etc.

The folk songs are almost always accompanied by dances.

Northeastern handicrafts

Handicrafts in the Northeast are also a relevant part of the cultural production of the Northeast, and are even the livelihood of thousands of people throughout the region.

Due to the regional variety of handicraft traditions, it is difficult to characterise them all, but the highlights are the hammocks woven and, sometimes, embroidered with many details; the products made in clay, wood (for example, from the carnauba, a typical tree from the sertão) and leather, with very particular features; as well as the lace, which has gained prominence in the handicraft of Ceará.

Another highlight are the bottles with images made manually in coloured sand, an article produced for sale to tourists. In Maranhão, handicrafts made from buriti fibre (a palm tree) stand out, as do handicrafts and products made from babaçu (a palm tree native to Maranhão).

Caboclinho de lança of the Rural Maracatu. The spear caboclo is one of the symbols of Pernambuco culture.

Northeast Brazilian cuisine

The cuisine of the Northeast is varied, reflecting, almost always, the economic and productive conditions of the various geo-economic landscapes of this region.

Seafood and fish are widely used in the cuisine of the coast, while in the sertão, recipes using meat and derivatives of cattle, goats and sheep predominate. Even so, there are several regional differences, both in the variety of dishes and the way they are prepared (for example, in Ceará, there is mostly mugunzá – also called macunzá or mucunzá – salty, while in Pernambuco, sweet predominates).

In Bahia, the main dishes are those made with dendê oil and shrimp, such as moquecas, vatapá, acarajé and bobós; however, foods accompanied by pirão, such as mocotó and rabada, and sweets like cocada, are no less appreciated.

In Maranhão, the highlights are cuxá, cuxá rice, bobó, stone fish and shrimp pie, all in the Maranhão style.

Also in Maranhão, the soft drink Jesus or Guaraná Jesus is a Maranhão heritage.

The bolo-de-rolo is the intangible heritage of Pernambuco. Some typical foods of the region are: the baião-de-dois, the carne-de-sol, the queijo de coalho, the vatapá, the acarajé, the panelada and the buchada, the canjica, the feijão and arroz de coco, the feijão verde and the sururu, as well as several sweets made of papaya, pumpkin, orange, etc. Some regional fruits – not necessarily native to the region – are ciriguela, cajá, buriti, cajarana, umbu, macaúba, the Maranhão fruits juçara, bacuri, cupuaçu, buriti, murici and pitomba, besides others also common in other regions.

Northeastern Culture

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Tourist attractions in the Northeast

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Northeastern cuisine has been directly influenced by the socio-economic factors of the region. The dishes have characteristics of Portuguese cuisine, known during the colonial period; African culture, absorbed at the time of slavery; and indigenous food, inherited from the native population. The recipes generally include vegetables, beef and goat meat, […]

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Rhythms of Northeastern Music

Northeastern music includes rhythms such as coco, xaxado, martelo agalopado, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, Axé and frevo, among other rhythms. The armorial movement in Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did an erudite job of valuing this popular rhythmic heritage from the northeast (one of its best-known exponents is […]